As part of an official push to reduce carbon emissions, the Ministry of Infrastructure announced it is compiling data on energy consumption and conducting energy audits to determine the cost of retrofitting many of the 160 government-owned buildings.

At last week’s virtual Caribbean Transitional Energy Conference, officials added that schools are one of the prime targets for energy-efficient insulation and air conditioning or rooftop solar panels. For the wider public, the ministry has launched an energy-efficiency campaign with a competition in which eight homeowners can win a free energy audit. The overall winner will receive an energy-efficient retrofit, from foam insulation to energy efficient air conditioning, based on the audit.

Kristen Augustine, energy policy coordinator in the ministry, said, “We want consumers to take control of their energy consumption to reduce their cost of living.

“The purpose of having another competition was that to show consumers how retrofits and behavioural changes can make a difference to help reduce your energy consumption.”

Augustine said the ministry is currently gathering data on energy consumption during facility audits and will conduct energy audits to establish the cost of retrofits.

Government is also in the process of outfitting 7,000 street lights with energy-efficient LED bulbs. Louis Boucher, deputy director of Energy and Utilities at OfReg, said consumers absolutely have the power to control their energy bills. “Energy efficiency is the low-hanging fruit,” he said.

In a second phase, the ministry aims to roll out a nationwide information campaign, which will include do-it-yourself energy audit and information guides, how to choose energy-efficient appliances, and how energy labels relate to local utility rates.

The ministry is also looking at various options, including duty waivers which will provide financial support for the purchase of energy-efficient equipment and construction materials.

Richard Hew, CEO of Caribbean Utilities Company, welcomed the initiative. There is “an unfortunate narrative in the community” that there is nothing anyone can do about expensive electricity bills because energy is supplied by a monopoly, he said.

But he added the electricity provider has been involved in energy-saving programmes since the 1990s. And those customers who followed the advice on energy efficiency had enjoyed the benefits of lower energy bills for many years.

“If we can move more people towards those homes that we’re seeing that are very energy efficient and get all homes to that level, I think we will go a long way toward addressing the issues we have with electricity bills people find unaffordable.”

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